Choosing the right security system installer
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A reliable security system can help protect your property and give you peace of mind. Whatever kind of home safety job you need doing, it’s essential that you find the right security system installer to perform the work.
- Find out if they have the relevant experience
- See if they are accredited
- Get like-for-like quotes and agree on payments
Keeping these points in mind can help you focus on what to look for when you’re meeting with tradesmen and getting quotes for the work. Carry on reading for more details on how to go about finding the right tradesman for your job.
Find out if they have the relevant experience
When it comes to home security, there are a number of different options available. Installing a security system can range from the basic - setting up motion detector lights or a wireless camera - to the very complicated, such as installing a fully-wired alarm system that is remotely monitored and alerts a private security company or the police when something goes wrong.
With such a wide array of products available, there is an equally wide range of companies and tradesmen bidding for work in the field. Some are specific, security-focused businesses that are committed entirely on working with home security systems, while others will be generalists, such as electricians who are able to supply and fit some security systems.
Ridas Grebliauskus of London’s 111 Security said it pays to focus your attention on a tradesman who has done previous work with the system you are interested in, whether that be alarm installations, intercoms, security lights or camera set-ups.
Look for experience people have in the particular area - how well do they know the different systems? They need to be familiar with the particular kind of set-up you’re interested in, and be able to talk you through those options.
Security installer Lionel Lewis of CRSL installs a home security system
A simple way is to gauge a tradesman’s overall experience is to read feedback on their work on a site like MyBuilder, which allows previous customers to leave reviews of their experience with the tradesman. When you meet the security installer, they may also be able to show you pictures of previous work they’ve done, and if you’re hiring them for a particularly big job, they should also be willing to put you in touch with previous clients, who can give a personal recommendation. Ridas said:
If I was looking for an installer to come to my house, I’d be looking for everything - their knowledge of particular systems, the number of jobs they had done, what previous customers said about them. Feedback is a very useful way of seeing what someone’s reputation is.
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You really want to meet with a security installer to talk everything over and get a feel for them. I like to go to every job to see it in person, it helps me be able to get a good idea of what’s needed. I take a portfolio of work we’ve done in the past so we can show the homeowner exactly how we work and what standards we meet.
See if they are accredited
Unlike with the Gas Safe Register, which anyone who works with gas in the home must be signed up to, there is no obligation for a security installer to be registered on any similar scheme. However, there are professional bodies in the UK which monitor the industry and which installers can voluntarily apply to join:
- National Security Inspectorate (NSI): In place for more than 40 years, this body monitors member companies to ensure they meet certain standards required by police and fire and rescue services
- Security System and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB): A certification body for organisations providing security systems and fire detection services, set up in 1994
Both the NSI and the SSAIB are approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
Although not every tradesperson who installs security equipment will be a member of these bodies, it is a good benchmark for specialised companies who deal with serious home security projects. When they fit alarm systems that are approved by these bodies, they can provide you with a Certificate of Compliance which can also be passed to insurers and help lower your premiums.
As well as accreditations from the above bodies, many tradesman may also be approved installers for particular brands of alarms and security systems, such as Risco, BPT, Pyronix and Hikvision. These will demonstrate their familiarity with a particular product. Stephen said:
I have City & Guilds qualifications as well as being an approved installer for several brands. It helps to reassure people that I have specific experience.
The other thing to check is if your tradesman is competent to self-certify any electrical work that needs doing. Some security installations will involve new circuits being added to your home’s electric system, meaning they must be issued with an Electrical Installation Certificate. To get this, the tradesman must either be qualified to certify their own work, or your local authority’s Building Control office will need to inspect it. Find out how your installer will deal with this, if it is needed. For more information on electrical work, read our guide to hiring an electrician.
Get like-for-like quotes and agree on payments
As with many projects you can undertake, the pricing options will vary hugely depending on your choices, but you should expect a security professional to visit your property to make a full assessment and advise you on your best options. Though it is possible to buy security systems on the internet and the high street and fit them yourself, Stephen warns against cutting corners:
You can get a four-camera system on the high street for £200, but people don’t know what they are buying. I’ve taken dozens of systems out of people’s houses when they realised the quality of them just wasn’t what they were expecting. The old saying is true - buy cheap, buy twice.
If the project is large, it can be worth meeting with, and getting quotes from, at least three installers. The detail and scope of their quotation can tell you a lot about their process. It’s important to make sure that all the quotations are like-for-like - do they include materials and labour and VAT? The only way to accurately compare quotations is if you are comparing like-for-like.
Taking a sample of at least three quotations can can help you spot any that seem unreasonably low - if this is the case, it could be the sign of a tradesman who wants to win the job, but will make up the true value by adding on extra costs, or is using cheap materials. Good tradespeople will be transparent about their pricing, and provide a written quote detailing the materials they will use and the labour costs involved.
After agreeing to a price through an accurate, written quotation, ensure you’re happy with how payment will work. A reputable tradesman will generally not expect, or ask for, the total value of an expensive job up front. However, a small deposit is not uncommon, especially if the tradesman is supplying the equipment that will be installed. Many tradesman are happy to be paid in cash, but most will now accept cheques or bank transfers.
Unlike some home improvement jobs, security systems can be an ongoing commitment - with both audible-only alarm systems (those which sound to alert you and neighbours) and monitored alarm systems (which signal an Alarm Receiving Centre which can notify police on your behalf), there may be long-term fees for coverage, check-ups and maintenance. You should be clear on what coverage is included in your deal, and how these long-term payments will work. Stephen said:
Generally I like to agree a maintenance contract. It makes sense for us to go back and ensure everything is going smoothly. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can cause issues, like a spider making its web in a camera lens. You might not notice it until you really need the footage, and then it’s too late. It’s like servicing a car. It needs upkeep or it will fail.